A/N: Alright, slightly revised author's note. Man am I fond of this story. It's my second favorite of the stories I got up here (Transience being number one). You'll have to grant a mild AU for this story, since if you think on it too hard the timeline totally breaks and makes no sense and good things like that, but it's crack. I think we can forgive a few general continuity errors, hm?
I'd love to write something like this again. Cracky and serious at the same time, this is probably one of the best things I'll ever write about this sad, funny little pairing. (Not to mention I'm fond of it as my error-riddled first submission to this wacky place.)
It's hard to say how it all began. Ask anyone and the most you'll get is raised eyebrows or a thoughtful expression that leads to a shrug. The more conservative members will simply walk away, unwilling to acknowledge that the tradition exists.
That isn't to say, however, that they don't fully take advantage of it. Everyone does. Sadism, of course, becomes cheap and easy fun when you've got no morals to trouble you.
Switch tacks, then. Ask anyone who started it and they'll all come up with the same answer with the same speed, in varying tones from amusement to exasperation: "Demyx."
"It's my month!" he'd brightly announced one day. Anyone who walked into the Lounge of Longing (as Axel had so cheerfully named it) had to deal with Demyx beaming and grandly lording it over anyone in a ten foot radius from his perch on top of a coffee table.
An exasperated Roxas, endlessly distracted from his book by Demyx's loud proclamations, finally bit the bullet no one else would touch and ground out, "What do you mean, it's your month?"
"It's September!" Demyx explained, as if this was the most obvious thing in the world and any simpleton could see his point.
"... your point being?"
"Come ooon, Roxas!" Demyx was practically pouting, looking terribly put out that no one had yet realized just why it was "his" month. "September's the ninth month in the year, right? And I'm IX in the Organization! That means it's my month!"
Silence settled over the few members in the room. No one wanted to admit it was a vaguely interesting concept.
"And what does that mean to the rest of us?" Larxene drawled, a strange mix of boredom and curiosity pushing her to sit up and look at Demyx squarely for the first time. She'd been doing such a good job of ignoring him so far. But perhaps he was onto something here...
"It means that when it's your day, you gotta listen to me!"
"Meaning the day our number corresponds with," offered Xaldin, peering over the top of his reading glasses.
"Right! And today's September 2nd, so..."
"Wait, what happened to September 1st?" Axel had come to stand next to Roxas's seat, arms folded over his chest as he watched the exchanges. Fingers lightly drummed against his arm as he watched Demyx fidget over the question, and he managed to keep his bored expression despite the muted amusement in the back of his mind. He well knew why Demyx had skipped the first day, according to his own rules. Asking was a subtle form of revenge for not having thought of this sooner, when it would have been his month.
"Well.. I don't think the Superior would like my idea much..."
"Not until January." Xaldin pocketed his reading glasses with a vague smile, moving to stand from his chair and approach the shorter Nobody. "I like your idea, Demyx. I like it so much I'll go inform Xigbar that it's his turn."
And with that he was gone. The people still in the room couldn't help but snicker at the way Demyx had suddenly gone white.
But the next day, Demyx had not dissolved into darkness as a result of twenty bullets to the face, nor had be been pummeled, beaten, or otherwise shown the error of his ways. In fact, he was downright cheerful while Xigbar looked mutinous.
Apparently the Superior had caught wind of Demyx's plan and, for whatever bizarre reason, approved. Henceforth, each member had a month with which to bother the other members on their appointed day. Excepting Xemnas, of course. If anyone so much as dared to approach him on the first of any month, they were sure to find themselves running as fast as their legs could take them from his latest inventive threat.
Demyx went relatively easy on his victims, merely asking them to keep him company for a day while he chattered their ear off or played a few songs for them. Axel and Roxas both particularly enjoyed this, as they already got along with Demyx and had learned to tune out his constant babble. Other members, like Larxene, simply turned the tables with a few snide comments or clever pranks ("Oh, you mean you didn't want spiders all over your bed? I was just trying to make it comfortable for you").
Other members weren't so kind. Luxord challenged each member to a game of chance and made the losers face him in a drinking challenge. Luxord was infamous for being able to hold inhuman amounts of liquor, so no one ever beat him. Roxas had the worst time of this particular month. He had no memory of October 13th, but Axel made sure to tell him in excruciating detail how he'd shed most of his clothing, stumbled and fallen over various pieces of furniture both large and small, sung three Christmas carols with Demyx, and finally passed out under a table with a party hat on his head and a scrawled sharpie mustache on his upper lip. Naturally there were pictures. Axel walked around for days with several distinctly Keyblade-shaped bruises and a huge grin on his face.
Marluxia's month passed largely without incident. It was around that time he was beginning to plan his move some other godforsaken castle, and he largely waived his right to torture ... with the notable exception of Demyx, who had to spend a day helping some of Marluxia's more exotic plants get a thorough workout. His shouts and yelps as he sprinted around the modified greenhouse trying to escape from some rather disturbing ... mobile flora echoed throughout the castle. Xaldin and Xigbar watched from a safe distance and laughed so hard they spilled all their popcorn.
Larxene's month was as painful and electricity-filled as one might expect. No one dared go near a wall socket for weeks. About the only good thing to come out of her month was a fully reorganized library, painstakingly categorized by each unhappy slave on pain of kunai to the groin. "Good thing," was, however, considered both entirely subjective and rather short lived. At 12:00 AM on January 1st, the sound of Larxene screeching at her newly trashed library warmed the cockles of many a non-heart.
It was around this time that Roxas made his displeasure known that he wouldn't have a month. He'd pretended so far that he didn't care, that it was beneath him, but the sulky frown never left his face for a week. You might even say he pouted, though anyone who insinuated as much ended up dodging flying Keyblades. Xemnas, who was very busy spending most of his time pontificating over Kingdom Hearts, simply gave his month to his youngest member and resumed shutting himself up in his chambers.
Not that Roxas knew what to do with his month once he had it. Finally, in a stroke of complete lack of genius, he challenged each member to a duel/snowball fight. "Leave it to the shrimp to come up with the most boring idea," Xigbar had drawled. Roxas promptly beat his ass into the snow in the Land of Dragons and walked away with an uncharacteristically smug smile on his face. Roxas's only defeat came at Axel's hands. Axel, who melted every snowball thrown at him. Axel, who, instead of fighting, simply tackled Roxas into the snow again and again and again and got heaps of the icy stuff down the blond's shirt and pants. Axel, who despite being completely out of his element, acted like he was totally in his element. The cheap bastard.
No one talks about Xigbar's month. The merest mention of February is enough to bring a wince or a suppressed shiver of horror, and perhaps a furtive glance into whatever dark corner happens to be nearby.
Xaldin let his month pass peaceably on the one condition that no one could ever abuse him during his day ever again. He said this with a kind and understanding smile, so naturally each member, not wishing to be flayed alive or creatively impaled, complied.
Vexen's month is the reason no one goes in the basement anymore. Things happened down there. Terrible, dark things. Roxas for weeks had nightmares of robots draped in white lab coats. Even Larxene seemed more cowed by Vexen after April 12th. Vexen, for his part, seemed very pleased with himself that he was able to turn Axel's room into a veritable ice box for a day - and force the other Nobody to stay inside. It took the unlikely crack team of Lexaeus and Zexion to break in and get Axel out before he collapsed and died of hypothermia. (Why? Because Roxas bribed them by promising to burn some of Axel's best blackmail. Axel later fumed that Roxas should have let him go to a noble and icy death before letting go of dirt that good.)
Lexaeus took what might be seen as the most interesting and perhaps most humane perspective on the practice. He made each member travel to a world to which they had never been and learn about its people and its culture in depth, to personally report back to him at the end of their day. It was an extremely enlightening experience for most, as the members of Organization XIII were used to being the bad guys who destroyed everything in their path rather than passive observers. When later asked why he'd made everyone perform such a strange task, Lexaeus actually smiled. "We might as well understand who it is that we destroy in our quest for completeness. They deserve that much." Silence and a new appreciation for the Silent Hero usually followed.
Zexion raised an eyebrow at anyone who bothered to remind him that his month had come. He'd circle them, eyes narrowed, then offer his assessment in that maddening quiet murmur of his. "And why," he'd ask, "would you want to remind me of something that can only cause you pain?" Most of the Organization spent the first thirteen days of that month walking on eggshells, staring around corners, paranoid and constantly wondering what Zexion might surprise them with - which, naturally, is precisely what Zexion had been going for and why he never actually did a thing. It's been said that he may have actually smiled when he learned of his comrades' suffering, though no proof of this historic moment has ever been shown.
Saix, hugely bored with the whole affair, gave his month to the member he deemed would use it most wisely. Xigbar stepped up to the challenge with an enormous grin and gun in hand. For thirteen straight days, the castle was completely empty of all but I, II, and VII. Saix occasionally remarked that it was the most peaceful two weeks he'd had in perhaps his entire existence.
Then August dawned, dark and cool as ever in the World That Never Was, and Axel's revenge for nearly a year of torture was set in motion.
August 1st passed without incident. Like all the rest, he knew better than to actively go seeking his death in the form of a Superior disturbed from his latest morose meditation beneath the heart-shaped moon.
August 2nd went down in history as perhaps the most spectacular failure of a revenge on any world ever in all of time. What began as a plot to set fire to everything Xigbar held dear ended with Axel as the loser of a rousing, drunken game of strip poker. Pictures were taken and a veritable encyclopedia of blackmail was compiled. Never let it be said that Axel couldn't occasionally have a grudging respect for the sheer levels of bastard his superiors could achieve.
August 3rd was slightly tamer. To the surprise of most, Axel and Xaldin largely got along. Allowing, of course, a constant space of at least ten feet between their persons. Besides, Xaldin had already wriggled out of his days months ago, and for once Axel was smart enough to stick to the deal. No one likes a spear to the gut, after all.
Axel would forever relish August 4th. Chill-inducing memories of ice everywhere saw most of Vexen's lab being melted in retaliation - not quickly, but slowly and excruciatingly. Vexen later compared it to having a limb sawed off with a butter knife and being forced to watch. The Furry of Dancing Flames, every inch worthy and proud of his title, simply smiled like a cat and got the hell out of Dodge for the remainder of the day.
August 5th and 6th passed relatively without incident. "Relatively" only being compared to August 4th, really. Havoc was still wreaked, certain vaguely emo Nobodies found themselves with surprise haircuts, and fun was had by all except Zexion and the unfortunate Dusks on which he took out his wrath.
Saix's day came and went without anything happening at all. The simmering tension between the two acted like a barrier more solid than any wall. Neither bothered to cross and ignite what would surely be a more serious fight. Axel had other battles to wage.
Days 8 through 10 were the calmest of all. Axel got along famously with Demyx and Luxord; the former simply because he was an enormous goof, and the latter because Luxord knew his way around fine liquors and cards, talents that a man like Axel could appreciate. Many a poker game was played and lost. Demyx lost all of his clothing except a single sock, dyed pink in a freak gardening accident with Marluxia. Once again, blackmail material was secured.
August 11th and 12th were full of fireworks. Quite literally. And in very localized spaces. Marluxia and Larxene would spend days cleaning away the soot and burn marks and swearing twenty kinds of vicious and bloody death on Axel, who never seemed to be present when anyone went looking for him.
Then, finally, came August 13th. The day Axel had long been waiting for. Oh, how he had waited. And planned. Absolutely nothing would ruin this day. His newly restored piles of blackmail would make sure of that.
And so, bright and early, Axel strolled into his best friend's room without knocking, as was customary. Roxas was still asleep; only a scruffy blond mess of hair poked out from under his twisted covers. Pleased with this scene, Axel sauntered over and promptly dumped the bucket of water he'd been holding all over his best friend's bed.
In the chaos that ensued Roxas very nearly broke seven of Axel's bones before he realized who it was. He then proceeded to try and break twelve more before Axel wrestled him to the ground.
Sopping wet and fuming with water still running into his eyes from his hair, Roxas glared up at his larger friend and silently cursed Axel's superior height and just generally larger frame. Just wait till I have a growth spurt, a venomous little voice said in the back of his mind.
"Mornin', Rox." Axel sat firmly on his best friend's legs and leaned forward, making sure to never remove his hands from where they pinned Roxas's arms to the ground. "Just wanted to start the day off right."
"By getting my bed soaking wet? It's going to take me forever to dry, Axel, and I'm going to make you do it because I'm sure as hell not cleaning up after--"
"Woah, Rox, woah! Slow down. Is that any way to greet your best friend when it's your day in his month?"
"Yes," came the immediate, flat response. "Now get off me before I gut you with a Keyblade."
"You say that every day," Axel hummed fondly, but he complied, dancing back out of striking range before Roxas could get him. Then he stood with hands clasped behind his back, staring at his best friend with such hopeful cheer in his eyes that Roxas actually resigned himself to his fate and sighed. "Fine, it's your day. And you did what I wanted on mine, so .. let's just get this over with. What do you want?"
You, Axel thought but didn't say. No, no, not yet. He had to be patient.
You see, Axel had noticed something that day eight months ago, on that snowy slope in the Land of Dragons. Roxas had returned to the castle moaning and groaning about snow getting into all the worst places like some kind of malicious, cold sand, but during their spar, he'd .. smiled. And laughed. And Axel had realized Roxas never smiled like that for anyone else. Axel had discovered that only he could really make Roxas laugh. Only he could bring out the kid that actually resembled a fifteen year old, instead of the cold, timeless creature Roxas normally was, blank mask in place and permanent frown on his face. No, Axel could take Roxas to Christmas Town and they'd have a blast wandering around the factory and joking with the elves. He could take Roxas to the beach on some random world of no real import and they could hang out like friends, like goddamned normal people, without either of them batting an eye.
Axel had woken up two months ago from the most disturbing yet most amazing dream of his nonlife and had immediately needed to take a cold shower. Twice.
That was when Axel had formed his plan for this day. And finally, after interminable weeks of waiting, it was right there in front of him, five foot something of frowning, wet blond boy, just waiting for the trap to be sprung.
Poor Roxas. He'd never know what hit him.
"I want," Axel said, drawing out the words just for annoyance's sake, "to play a game."
Roxas arched a brow. "What kind of game?"
"Hide and seek," came the immediate answer. Axel leaned forward, letting sharp teeth show in that wicked and knowing grin, and Roxas feared the worst. "Run."
And so the day was spent in the most frantic game of hide and seek known to man. Or something like hide and seek. It became some hybrid of that plus tag, manhunt, and perhaps the entire sport of hunting all rolled into one. Axel had only one rule - no matter who won, he always got to seek.
Without fail, he found Roxas every time. And every time that happened, Axel would pin Roxas to the wall, or tackle him to the floor, or just sweep him up in a tight and sudden grab from behind. You couldn't quite call it a hug, what with Axel pinning Roxas's arms to his side and Roxas squirming like an alarmed trout, but Axel liked to think it was almost a hug.
Every time it happened, that same dusting of pink would come over the younger Nobody's cheeks. Whether it was exertion or frustration was hard to say, but every time Axel pinned him, that touch of pink would come back.
They played long into the night, much to the annoyance of the other members who were trying to go about their lives without Roxas and Axel tearing through the kitchen or breaking shelves in the library or shattering the peace of any given room. Finally, finally, an exhausted Roxas fled for his last refuge, the one place he thought Axel wouldn't expect him to go - his own room.
There was a certain logic to it. It was a simple "hide in plain sight" ploy. Hoping Axel would dismiss the most obvious place as too obvious and skip to other places, Roxas threw himself face first onto his bed, panting and worn out. Several minutes went by in total peace, with only the ticking of his clock to keep him company, and for a while, Roxas thought he had really won. With a sigh he shifted so he could see the numbers on the tiny, antique clock he'd gotten at a market in Port Royal. 11:55 PM, his clock read. In five minutes, Axel's time would be up, and Roxas would be free from this ridiculous game.
With a deep and soul weary sigh, Roxas rolled onto his back and threw an arm over his eyes. What the hell had Axel been playing at all day, anyway? He'd never had so much physical contact in...
Fighting back that blush he couldn't quite seem to help, Roxas grit his teeth. That had been .. weird. Axel was always physical - it seemed to be his primary mode of communication - but he wasn't usually that physical. Every touch had sent something warm and weird through Roxas's limbs, ending with an electric buzz that slowly fizzed out at the base of his skull, to linger in warmth and memory.
A frown slowly tugged at his lips, and Roxas turned onto his side, staring hard at the wall. It hadn't been .. bad, precisely. But Roxas couldn't call it good, either. It was just ... weird.
Roxas wasn't what you could call naive. It wasn't as if he had no idea at all what Axel might be playing at. But the only conclusion he could draw from Axel's intentions, all those warm touches, those moments pressed body to body ... made no sense at all.
Roxas bolted up with a start - or would have, if Axel hadn't suddenly appeared, looming over him, a smiling specter in the half dark. Wildly Roxas glanced at his clock - 11:59. One minute.
"What, Axel? You win. Are we done now?"
"No." Axel's eyes were strangely serious, and suddenly Roxas was transfixed. He couldn't mean- he couldn't want-
They had no hearts. This wasn't real. This wasn't-
Then Axel was lowering himself down, laying his body flush with Roxas's, and all thought abruptly rushed from Roxas's mind on a single exhalation of breath, leaving him gaping, staring up at his .. best friend.
"I want something more from you, Roxas."
Something more- love? Affection? Things he couldn't offer, could never give, and Roxas didn't know what Axel wanted of him, could never possibly-
"Stop thinking so hard," Axel abruptly murmured, smoothing a thumb over the crease that had appeared between Roxas's eyebrows. Startled by the action, Roxas opened his mouth to speak - and quickly had it shut for him when Axel pressed warm, dry lips to his own.
Roxas's world decidedly did not come crashing down. There was no sudden click where everything made sense. There was no rush of wild heat to make him think that this was something right.
For a moment there was only the silence, the ticking of the clock, the sound of their breathing, and the distinct lack of two heartbeats.
Then, slowly, Roxas twined his arms around his best friend's neck and kissed him back. A low, spreading warmth was filling him like sunlight. Maybe that was just the heat of Axel's body. Maybe it was a voice in the back of Roxas's mind saying okay, this ... this I can give.
Axel pulled back when the little antique clock began to chime, sweet pure sounds that broke the silence around them. To Roxas's surprise, he actually looked .. a little anxious. Axel pushed himself up on his arms and looked down at those blue, blue eyes while the clock's midnight tolling swelled and filled the space between them and thought-
Well, he didn't get a chance to think. Because Roxas followed him up. Roxas pressed their lips back together, pried open Axel's lips with his tongue and pulled the older Nobody into a slow, warm kiss. They sank back down together, and the sound of the clock chiming drained away into breathy quiet.
It wasn't long before September rolled around again, and Demyx was once again standing on the table in the middle of the Saloon of Solitude (as Axel had cheerfully renamed it), pointing at everyone who came in and announcing it was his month.
When Axel and Roxas walked in, with Roxas tucked not unwillingly beneath Axel's thin, bony arm, they both stopped and looked at Demyx, then at each other. They sported the same quirked up grin.
They were in for another long year.